Multiple meat packing plants in Utah have been hit with recent influxes of coronavirus cases and some consumers are concerned about what this means for the products from these plants. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food released a statement saying they are confident in the quantity and quality of the meat that is produced in Utah.
The USDA, FDA, and CDC all site no evidence that food is a form of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Without evidence, the same is being said for COVID-19.
Brian Nummer is a professor in the Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sceinces department at Utah State University. According to Nummer, if you are worried about getting the virus through your meat, there are some steps they can take to ensure food safety.
“We encourage people at home once you handle that raw meat, you should wash your hands to ensure that some of that some of the bacteria will be on your hands" said Nummer. "And then of course, cooking will destroy the bad bacteria and then will also destroy the virus if it were present”
Although nothing is known for sure, there are a few theories to how the virus was able to spread in the facility.
"Plants are operated anywhere from refrigerator temperature to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit," explained Nummer. "That cold air that's present actually preserved the virus a little bit longer. And then of course, the concern is that in order to deliver that cold air, there is an air conditioning unit and it is blowing air in. So, there is a concern that the blowers are possibly blowing the potentially contagious droplets from people out further than the short, three to six feet. The other possibility is noise. When you think of meat plants, they're very, very loud. And it may be that workers lean in to the other worker and yell out instructions”
Nummer said people in the meat processing plants who are ill are not working.
“The response from the meat plants is that, they have enough workers so the workers who are not ill are doing additional shifts and, some of the supervisors are perhaps covering for some of the line workers," said Nummer.
Some meat processing plants have temporarily shut down to allow employees to recover.